Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Charles Dickens Doesn't Get It

One of my favorite Christmas movies is "Scrooge", the old Alistair Sims black and white version of A Christmas Carol. It is on now, even as I am typing these words. Really ... I love that movie.

I was at a conference some years ago and one of the speakers mentioned finding a very old copy of the book (A Christmas Carol) in a used bookstore. He said it had an appendix written by Dickens in which he sought to explain the lessons of the story. He said, as he read Dickens' words he realized that Dickens did not get it. Dickens did not understand the gospel message.

In the story, Scrooge has condemned himself by cutting himself off from humanity by his failure to do charitable works as he had the means to do. Jacob Marley, his dead business partner, comes back to warn him that if a man's spirit does not walk "abroad among his fellow humans" in life, then it must do so in death. Marley was condemned to walk among the world seeing what he was never part of. He tells Scrooge that three ghosts representing Christmas Days past, present and future will visit him. The first ghost tells Scrooge that these visits are for his "reclamation." Therein is the rub. Through reminding Scrooge of the joy of being large hearted and loving with his fellow men, they sought to reclaim his soul.

In the movie, Christ is a peripheral figure who is mentioned mostly as one who did good and taught men that doing good was the chief end of man. These are my words, not the story's. But they are accurate nonetheless. One can see, the teaching of the story is that Scrooge, by learning to be generous and loving again, could save himself from the judgment he would face when he died. And that is pelagianism.

Jesus came into the world because sinful, depraved, human beings had no ability at all to seek God or to do a single good work that God would accept as being meritorious for salvation. In other words, we were helplessly lost. We are not the people of God. We had no hope in the world. We were sinners and were already under God's condemnation and on our way to hell.

But God is not glorified in helping us do for ourselves. He is glorified in doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We could not seek God so God came to us. In Jesus Christ God entered the world to die for sinful men. Now, every sinner who in utter helplessness comes begging God for mercy, finds mercy, and is saved. They are rescued from the coming judgment of God because they know, by faith, that Jesus has already stood in their place and taken God's judgment on himself for them. Moreover, by faith, the sinless life of Jesus Christ is counted to the sinner, so that the sinner is clothed in the very good works of Jesus. Understand, not our own works but Jesus' works. In all this, God frees us from our slavery to our sin nature and calls us to live a life of good and charitable works. But not to save ourselves, but because we are saved. The difference is vast.

On this Christmas Day, 2006, if you have never called out to God... you know you are a sinner. You look at your life and you know that if God is perfect, you are not. If judgment is real, you will not pass it. But, there is a savior, who is Christ the Lord. He stood in the place of sinners. Has he stood in your place? Did he die for you? Look to Christ O man! Look to him and believe that he died for you. Believe that he is your savior. Believe and be saved.

What greater Christmas gift would you receive this year than the gift of eternal life given to you in Jesus Christ our Savior? You see, Dickens didn't get it. Do you?

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